Book Review “World Made by Hand” by James Howard Kunstler

Sometimes you pick up a book and its difficult to put down again. This book definitely roped me in and grabbed my attention. A great read!

The book World Made by Hand by James Howard Kunstler is a tale of good and evil, hope and despair, tenderness and love, and mysticism and the supernatural. It overflows with remarkable, well-developed characters and has an interesting take on life after the electricity stops and the cars cease to run. I found it to be a post-apocalyptic story unlike any I had read before.

I was so impressed with this book and the author’s exceptional story telling ability that I did little else but read, putting aside two other books I was reading, so that I could finish it in a day or two.

In many books about the end of the world, the calamity—how the world ended—drives the story. This one is a departure because World Made by Hand is a character-driven story. The people that populate this book make the story compelling, and it would remain as captivating if it took place in the 1850s. That it is set in the near future after a collapse is a bonus.

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Bridges, new Bridges, Get Your Fresh Infrastructure Here

A trillion here, a trillion there; pretty soon you’re talking about some real money. Money we don’t have, but don’t worry, you’ll eventually pay for it.

On the heels of a $2 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that spend far more money than necessary of dozens of things that have little or nothing to do with COVID-19, we are now getting a look at the next piece of over-laden spending bill the Biden administration will try to shove through Congress and down the throats of the American people: The $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan.

I am not against the idea of rebuilding our roads, bridges, damns, locks, ports, airports and trains. For example, I think the interstate highway system is one thing that made this country great and continues to aid commerce and transportation.

But…

What happened to all the money allocated for those so-called “Shovel Ready” projects during the Obama administration? Before we allocate more money for infrastructure, I’d like to get a report on how the last chunk of change was spent and whether we, as a country and as taxpayers, got what we expected out of it. If private industry said, “We’re going to spend $662 billion on capital improvements over the next 8 years,” then you can bet shareholders would want a detailed accounting of how that money was spent and how it benefitted the organization. So before you rush to spend more money, Mr. Biden, how about accounting for the last project? How well did you spend those funds?

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As the Shutdowns Draw to a Close, Traffic and Crime Rises

Shutting down the country to prevent the spread of COVID-19 had plenty of unintended consequences, from the economic to mental health. Reopening may have consequences, too.

My daughter, who lives in a mid-sized city, was complaining about the recent increase in traffic and how it is making her commute longer. (Since she works in healthcare, she has been back at work for months. And yes, she caught COVID-19 but recovered quickly, probably thanks to being young.) Apparently, people are going back to the office after the COVID-19 restrictions were lifted and the highways are getting crowded again.

A friend in our old home town confirmed that traffic is “back to normal” or perhaps worse. Construction is also going on at a rapid pace, possibly because the area is one where people from large cities are moving to escape. I’m not sure moving from an apartment in a large city to a townhouse or condo in a mid-sized city is that big an escape, but it took me multiple steps to get from New York City to the country, so you have to start somewhere. That’s why we call it your prepping journey.

It will be interesting to see if the re-opening of American and the thought of facing crowds again drives more people out of cities.

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Spring Shows Up For a Few Days, the Tease

The yellow blooms of forsythia in the valley below us herald the coming of spring, but our mountain locations keeps it at bay.

I came down off our mountain to go shopping and realized it was spring in the valley. The forsythia was blooming. Willow trees had ribbons of green along their branches. When I got to our village, a few ornamental cherry and pear trees in front of houses were blooming.

On the mountain, spring has not yet sprung. In the woods, there are hint of it; red along the tree tops from the maples and touches of green in the undergrowth as small bushes. It’s as if they want to get a jump on the sunshine started soaking it up before their broadleaf cousins could intercept it all, and there was sunshine aplenty. It made me wish for bees. This would be their first real chance to gather pollen and perhaps some nectar and to rebuild their colony after the long cold winter.

While temperatures in the low 60s are welcome, we cannot get carried away. We are not done with the cold weather yet, as it is more than six weeks until our average last frost date. Already the five day forecast shows night time temperatures dropping back into the 20s before the weekend. With my luck, we’ll have snow.

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Inflation on the Rise Across Multiple Segments

As costs rise at the cash register, your money becomes worth less and less. Inflation is rising for multiple reasons and you need to act quickly to beat it.

My wife came home from grocery shopping last week and informed me that prices are rising. I agreed and told her that food inflation was hitting 10 percent in some categories.

For the past few months, I’ve been warning you about inflation: Food inflation, fuel inflation, ammo inflation, and inflation because of shortages caused by supply chain problems. An article in the Wall Street Journal adds yet another cause of inflation: Chinese companies are raising their prices in part because of higher commodity and shipping costs.

If you are not seeing inflation in your grocery shopping, you will see in in goods made from China. Chances are, you will see it in both, and in many other goods and services as well.

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COVID-19 Bounces Back in the U.S. Signaling Possible Start to a New Wave

As COVID-19 case numbers rise again, we may be witnessing the end of the hope and excitement about a return to “normal” by summer.

The number of new COVID-19 cases in the United States grew this past week for the first time since the early January. Cases increased 12 percent over the past 14 days, according to the New York Times. I’m not going to call this a trend until we string together another couple weeks of increases, but we may have just seen the low point.

The number of hospitalizations and deaths continued to drop, although the drop in the number of patients hospitalized due to COVID-19 appears to be slowing. It will interest me to see if the increase in vaccinated people results in a lower percentage of hospitalizations and deaths if the number of positive cases rises. By inoculating most of the elderly population, where deaths mere the most common, you would expect that number to drop.

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Planning, Flooring and Framing Out our Chicken Coop

Framing a simply structure like our chicken coop sounds easy, but it is also an easy way to introduce all kinds of errors. Proper planning helps keep it square, plumb and true.

We’ve been getting rain storms on and off for the past couple days, so outdoor work on the chicken coop has ground to a halt. There are, however, things we can do inside for this project.

The chicken coop floor is going to be 12’x4’, so I cut a piece of plywood in half. When butted up against a full sheet, this will give us the full length. Then I painted both pieces with a durable exterior paint. I used an enamel because I wanted it to be glossy. I also painted the edges. When they dried, I flipped them over and painted the back side. Why do the edges and the underside of the floor need paint? To minimize water penetration and rotting.

Framing the Walls

I spent several hours yesterday taking the big-picture plans I have for the chicken coop and converting them into a detailed drawing to serve as a guide for the framing.

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The Foolishness of Attempts to Ban So-Called Ghost Guns

Attempting to ban or regulate Ghost Guns is a useless motion gun grabbers are going through. Criminals will get guns no matter what, just like the got alcohol in the 1920s and drugs in the 1990s.

On Friday, the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATFE or just ATF) met with the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) and multiple gun manufacturers to discuss ghost guns. (EDIT: See our note at the end of the article.)

For those of you wondering how a gun comes back from the dead to become a ghost, let me disabuse you of that notion. The term “Ghost Gun” refers to a gun without a serial number, usually made at someone’s home. These days, many ghost guns are made using something called an “80 percent receiver.” In other words, a hunk of metal that looks like a gun part is sold to a hobbyist who uses either a mill or a drill press to finish the hunk of metal into the receiver for a gun

Once the metal is milled, drilled out, or filed into a finished receiver (not an easy task), the home builder must acquire and fit all the other parts to the gun, like a barrel, trigger, stock, etc. Because there are lots of manufacturers selling repair and replacement parts for popular firearm platforms—like the AR-15, the Glock 17/19, and the 1911—home builders can source the other parts and turn their fished receiver into a gun. Because these guns don’t have serial numbers, they are called “ghost guns.” 

While 80 percent receivers appear to be the gun grabber’s biggest concern, anyone with a decent 3D printer can also make a ghost gun. There are also molds into which you make a plastic receiver in just hours.

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Two Actions Today Moved the World a Step Closer to War

It’s all well and good to prepare for natural disasters and an economic collapse, but war is a constant in our history. Don’t neglect to prepare for it.

Two things moved the world closed to war today as two well-known hot spots heated up.

First, an Iranian missile hit an Israeli-owned ship in the Arabian sea.  This could exacerbate tensions between Iran and Israel and lead to a response from Israel, which is known for its punishing response to attacks. Whether Israel strikes back directly at Iran or one of the terrorist groups it sponsors remains to be seen. At the very least, I would expect Israeli air strikes on ammo dumps or missile launch sites.

The danger here is that the two countries could get embroiled in open warfare that might involve the entire region and impact oils supplies, suck in world powers like the U.S. or Russia, or even lead to the use of nuclear devices.

Second, Taiwan publicly discussed its program of designing and building land-based long-range missiles capable of striking mainland China. They said one system is currently in production (and one assumes being deployed) and three more are in development.

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Social Media is Killing us Softly; How to Limited Your Risk

After three months, I dip my toe back into the social media stream and I remember why I left: social media is a big part of what is wrong with society.

I logged in to Twitter today and posted a tweet about a recent post. Then I made the mistake of seeing what people were tweeting about. This was the first time I’d spent any serious time on Twitter in three months. Turns out I hadn’t missed anything. Same bull, different day.

During the long COVID-19 quarantine, Twitter was a good way to kill time. Now? Not so much. It’s a waste of time.

If you are on Twitter, I recommend giving yourself a couple of days or weeks without it. Delete it from your phone and I bet you will be happier without it.

We were Better off Before Social Media

I think social media has harmed our society by emphasizing our differences rather than our similarities. Before, we were all Americans. Today, everything divides us. These differences have always been there, but they were under the surface. Today, all you have to do is find someone’s social media page and know that you hate them in two minutes or less.

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